The Transformations of Biddy Early: From Local Reports of Magical Healing to Globalised New Age Fantasies
We know from the Internet that tourists and other visitorseek out the house. It would, perhaps, be strange if they did not, given that many local tourism
websites mention it.  What is less obvious is what these offerings-if such they can be called-mean. They are, for example, reminiscent of a widespread Irish
Catholic practice of leaving votive offerings-ribbons, cloth, candle, and so on-at holy wells and shrines that are sites of pilgrimage: St Brigid’s Well, not too
many miles away near Liscannor, is a good example (Logan 1980, 34-5 and 45); the following week we saw recent offerings on St Caomhan’s grave, on Inisheer,
Aran Islands, Co. Galway (Harbinson 1991, 91-2).
The Internet, however, points elsewhere. One website, which hopes “to provide research material for modern Irish Celtic Pagans,” offers its own version of
Biddy’s biography, not straying too far from the original vernacular tales, and reprinting the relevant section of Visions and Beliefs. Elsewhere, neo-pagan John
Hurley moves further into anachronistic fantasy, writing that:
An Irish “Wise Woman” and healer/herbologist from the 19th century, like the famous Biddy Early of Clare, may not have been a card carrying member of the Druid Order and hence a
“Ban-Draoi” (Druidess), but she certainly was a witch and, in a way, a “priestess” of The Sidh. Was she a healer, a”Fairy Doctor”? Certainly. Was she a Seer? Definitely. Was she a Prophetess?
At times. She was mostly known for her healing abilities however …
The last word can be given to a “description of a modern person’s spiritual journey into an ancient Celtic world”:
I explored the west coast of Ireland, visiting sacred wells, abandoned churchyards, the stony Burren, assorted passage tombs, stone circles, and ancient dolmens (ritual markers). and [sic]
the reconstructed beehive huts of the coastal dwellers. These western areas maintained more of the older traditions that had died off in eastern Ireland.
I met with a story-teller (shannachie) of the old tradition who proceeded to get progressively more drunk as he described an event that occurred on a lonely dark road when he was in his
early teens. He was captured by Fair Folk and brought to a faerie wake, but he refused to eat anything, knowing that taking their food would pull him into the faerie world for the
remainder of his life.
He went on to tell of Biddy Early, a wise woman with a magic faerie tincture that could heal any ailment when the prayers for healing done by local Catholic priests did little.
There are not as many storytellers as there once were, and it is hard to find older sacred sites. They are generally not marked unless they are on the tourist routes, and few of the
local people know the history. I looked for a hill dedicated to a Celtic goddess, and eventually, someone could point the way there. I crisscrossed rural roads in the car though
woods and pastures, making my way upward.
Biddy Early page 31-50